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UN Preparing For Thousands To Flee Yemen to Horn of Africa, Many of Whom Were Original Refugees From Africa

Djibouti coastguard escorts boats carrying refugees from Yemen into the port of Obock (UNHCR)

Djibouti coastguard escorts boats carrying refugees from Yemen into the port of Obock (UNHCR)

Geneva — The UN refugee agency said on Friday it is preparing to receive as many as 130,000 refugees who could flee by boat to Africa to escape the conflict in Yemen, even as it works to help hundreds of thousands of other refugees and Yemenis under threat inside the country.

“With 14 out of Yemen’s 22 governorates affected by air strikes or armed conflict, UNHCR yesterday issued a position paper to governments calling on all countries to allow civilians fleeing Yemen access to their territories,” said Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Edwards told a news briefing that the historical flow of refugees from the Horn of Africa to Yemen—which has contributed almost all of the 250,000 refugees registered in Yemen—was now reversing. In the past 10 days, some 900 people have crossed the Gulf Aden to Djibouti, Somalia’s Puntland and Somaliland.

“The refugees tell us many more people are trying to leave Yemen but are being prevented from doing so by fuel shortages and high fees charged by boat operators,” Edwards said. “Ports are said to be closed and boats not allowed to depart.”

UNHCR is making contingency plans to receive up to 30,000 refugees over the next six months in Djibouti, which already hosts nearly 15,000 refugees. In Somaliland and Puntland, Somalia, UNHCR and its partners have started preparations to receive up to 100,000 people. Those escaping Yemen include both refugees who had originally fled from Africa to Yemen and Yemenis fleeing their own country.

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